While finals week is stressful on college students, it can also be stressful on parents. Your student may not call you for a week or you may be getting tearful, panic-filled calls about all that your student has to study, learn, and do before the end of the semester.
So what's the best way to support your college student through finals week? Simple answer: Let them get through it by themselves—with a little parental love, of course.
• Don't call too much: If you thought your student's schedule was complicated before finals, you should see the schedule now. (On second thought, maybe not!) Although classes are no longer in session, your student's wide-open schedule is actually filled with all kinds of last-minute to-do's.
Group study sessions, research, reading, and paper writing all take up a lot of your student's time. Think of how exhausted you are after a mentally challenging day of work; your student is having that day every day, and all day, both before and during finals week. Let your student focus on academics instead of on numerous, guilt-inducing parental phone calls.
If you call too often, you can just be adding stress to your student's situation. Is it wise to check in? Probably. Just leave a message of support on your student's voicemail, send a supportive text message, or zip along an E-mail telling your student how proud you are.
Let your child know when you'll call next, that you're available to talk if he or she needs to take a break for a few minutes, and that you're looking forward to seeing him or her soon. And don't forget to wish your student good luck on exams!
• Have travel plans already in place: Ideally, travel plans are already in place for students who are not living at home during their college years. Flight reservations are likely already made, as are bus or train trips.
If not, focus on finalizing those details when you do talk to your student; having an end time to finals week, and a day when you can expect your student home, will likely alleviate a lot of stress for the both of you.
[Discover the holiday survival guide for students and parents.]
If you are planning on driving to pick up your student, try to be flexible about the arrangement. If you are coming shortly after your student finishes the last exam, chances are he or she will not be ready to go (e.g., bags won't be packed and there will still be a few last-minute errands to run on campus). Yes, this may be frustrating, but wouldn't you rather have your student focus on finals than on packing up clothes?
Time management is a major challenge for college students—even the best of them—and particularly so during finals week. Remember that your role is to support your student as he or she learns how to negotiate an independent life.
[Learn more about how college students can manage their time.]
Consequently, bring along some patience—and maybe some extra suitcases—so that your student can transition from the end of the college semester to the comforts of home. After all, neither your student nor you really want to start the holidays being mad at each other during the drive home.
Even though it may be a challenge, being a supportive, on-the-sidelines college parent during finals week can be accomplished. If you have additional tips or want to share your experience as a parent during finals week, we'd love to hear from you in the comments!